No Stranger to Strange: Enigmatic 4D Idols
Hands down, my favorite kind of idol is a 4D idol. The idols that are random, out there, and make you wonder if they’re just a little bit out of their minds. Eccentricity is a rarity in K-Pop–it’s a performance culture geared more towards showing bright-eyed perfection than everyday flaws. So when idols and other figures in Korean entertainment embrace the fact that they are intrinsically oddballs, it not only goes against the K-Pop grain, but is also entertaining as hell. When I use the term 4D, I’m not talking about the idols who can go onto variety shows and make the audience laugh with silly antics. Oh no, I’m talking about the kinds that don’t really know (nor care) that they’re strange–the kinds that have that strangeness embedded into their personality regardless of if they are on stage or not. K-Pop has a good handful of 4D performers–some more eccentric than others–but I’d like to share with you a few of my personal favorites.
No one does 4D like Eric. There are not enough words to describe how strange Shinhwa‘s leader is. From his obsession with ears, his banana song, and pictures of him playing golf in a golfing bag posted to Twitter to prove it’s really him, Eric sets the standard for idols who are a bit out of their minds. Take, for instance, this Twitter conversation he had with the main character of Spy Myung-wol–the character he played!:
Kang-woo: Eric-sshi, do you know who I am? I didn’t think you’d know… it’s me, Hallyu star Kang-woo.
Kang-woo: So Eric-sshi does know who I am. Ah, is a Hallyu star’s existence something the whole country knows?
Eric: Shut up, you ass. I don’t like you, starting with the way you look.
Kang-woo: The way I look… they say I look like you. What do you think? But don’t you honestly think I’m a little better?
Eric: Arrogant bastard… Sucker, go braid your hair!!! Are you at least eating, Hallyu star? Pfft.
Kang-woo: I don’t have time to eat because I’m so busy…
Eric: Don’t eat. Go shoot [your fake drama-in-drama] Assassin. Han Ye-seul, Fighting!
Kang-woo: Eat well too, Eric sunbae-nim. I’ll follow you. Especially because you look like me.
Aside from having public Twitter conversations with himself, what makes Eric such an enigma is that his weirdness doesn’t interfere with his leadership. He doesn’t seem to place too much value on money or fame and if anything, his 4D personality has only helped to hold Shinhwa together for the last 14 years.
Where do you even start with Heechul? He’s the epitome of 4D. He’s a prankster, a ridiculously loud laugher, and proudly possesses not one ounce of modesty. Although the self-proclaimed “Big Space Star” doesn’t get very many lines on Super Junior‘s tracks, he makes up for that in personality. In fact, his “Heechulisms” (quotes and antics) have garnered a huge fan following. He’s not afraid to speak his mind, and knowingly breaks idol norms. He frequently admits that he thinks he’s beautiful and doesn’t hold back from counting off his many talents.
For example, during Super Junior’s filming of the variety show, Full House, he infamously said, to the chagrin of his group members:
It can’t be helped. I, Kim Heechul, was born to successfully make women fall in love with me. It’s not my fault. It’s not of my own free will. My mother and father created this face!
My favorite thing about him (and believe me, there’s many), is how big of a Sohee fanboy he is. Watch his utter surprise when Sohee calls into his radio show Youngstreet on his last day DJing the program:
Song Ji-hyo–The Contradiction
Ji-hyo is one of the most charismatic models I’ve ever seen. She can work the camera during video shoots and rock the set filming MVs. But when she’s with her Running Man brothers, she becomes a whole different person. That sexy girl totally transforms into a jocky tomboy who’s more athletic than most of her male counterparts. During Running Man filming, she’s always the one to wake up last, the one who has on the least makeup, the one with the coolest fitted hats made for guys, and the one who seems to care least about her appearance.
True, she doesn’t post crazy photos on social media or act out during shows like Strong Heart, but her personality deviates from the those of the typical female entertainer. She’s spacey, tricky, and one whom you also can’t tell what she’s thinking, which is a trait that’s helped her win many a mission.
When you think of Nichkhun, you probably don’t think 4D at all. You probably think of him as the pretty face of 2PM whose manners outshine vocal abilities. But for those of us who follow him on Twitter, Khun has some of the most abstractly philosophical tweets in idoldom. While his fellow idols are posting funny selcas and recounting their every waking moments, he’s pondering the oh-so-intangible meaning of life and death. When he’s not quoting world renowned author Paulo Coehlo‘s thoughts on love and the human psyche, he’s reminding us all to hold hands, sing, and live peacefully in this dark, scary ball of dust we call the world. And when he’s in the mood, he’ll remind you to look within your heart to find that you (yes YOU) are “B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L.” Either that or he’ll offer up strange but oddly useful analogies about how to live life:
Nichkhun is definitely no Heechul nor is he the typical 4D-er, but his extraterrestrial hippie tweets always make me wonder if he joined the wrong profession. They also make me wonder what else is going on in that strange head of his.
Kim Hyun-joong–The Blunt Flower Boy
How can someone so charming have such an alien personality? There’s more to Kim Hyun-joong than just a gorgeous smile, a handsome face, and some killer dance moves. He’s admitted to browsing the internet to leave negative comments about himself just for fun, he’s really particular about his microphones, and he goes off on irrelevant tangents during variety shows. You can never really tell what he’s thinking or if he’s thinking anything at all. Hyun-joong is an example of an idol who most times doesn’t even know he’s being 4D.
Although he has a soft speaking voice and quiet disposition, his interviews are littered with nonsensical responses, which, although cute and endearing, can also be regarded as thoughtless. Like the time he told SNSD’s Jessica that her sister, f(x)‘s Krystal was prettier than her. And then insisted on that opinion in front of a whole bunch of viewers.
He’s too straightforward but it’s kind of welcomed. Not too many idols feel comfortable to tell the truth on camera. For Kim Hyun-joong, it’s not so much that he feels comfortable, but he just doesn’t realize he’s committing a social faux. But either way, with a quick flash of those pearly whites, most people are willing to accept his 4D personality, even when it crosses a line.
Apparently 4D is contagious. Jaejoong, who is also really good friends (and former housemates) with Kim Hyun-joong, has on more than one occasion dropped his microphone while performing onstage, tripped and fallen on drama sets and during concerts, and cracked his voice frequently while talking or singing. But rather than his clumsy trait being a detriment to his role as the “face” of JYJ, fans have actually come to embrace his awkwardness. Furthermore, Jaejoong seems to embrace the clumsiness and uses it as a way to bring flavor into his persona. Not like he needs anymore flavor.
More than just being a klutz, Jaejoong has this vibe of otherworldly-ness. Like he’s not there 100 percent of the time but actually on a different plane. Former group mate Yunho once said Jaejoong’s weird habits included a wandering mind while the other members were talking. Spaciness is a trait most 4D idols have, but with Jaejoong the combination of spaciness and clumsiness eally serves to humanize him. He’s not perfect, as some would like to believe, and I’d venture a guess that he’s okay with that.
Those are a just a few of my favorites. And I know there are a few more oddballs in K-Pop. Who are your favorite 4D idols?